Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bullduino Unboxing

RedBullCreationFour days ago I learned of the Red Bull Creation contest.  I thought “Cool.  It’s great to see caffeine pushers out inspiring minds to be creative!”. 

Then I went to their website.  It was immediately clear that these guys mean business and they have some serious talent working on their behalf.  The retro OS site is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on the web.  Have you ever been to a web site that has a command line shell for navigation???

shellIf you fill out the application and they pick you as a contestant then you get a really cool Red Bull custom Arduino microcontroller board.  So, I filled out the application without really thinking what I would build.

Yesterday, I received an email saying that they were sending me a Bullduino and I had until July 3rd to build something and submit a video!  That’s seven days to come up with an idea, build something, and then create a two minute video.  Two of those days are on a weekend.  I’ve spent that much time just putting together the video for other contests. 

My first thoughts were that the board wouldn’t even arrive in time to even start building.  Forget having time to order parts.  Then it occurred to me that this is all part of the plan.  In the final round, the top entries that are submitted will have Red Bull camera crews come to their house/shop/hackerspace to film them for 72 hours as they build their final entry.  This is not a contest where you have three months to polish something off.  This is a contest of off the cuff ingenuity.  Love it. 

So, it would seem that this first round has the same theme – think fast and build something great using only the parts you have lying around or can round up quick.  This wasn’t really in my schedule for the weekend before Independence Day but maybe a light bulb will go off and I’ll come up with an idea that I can do quickly.

To my amazement, the board was shipped overnight and arrived today!  Maybe there is hope that I can salvage a project out of it.  The packaging of the board and the board design continued the high quality precedent set by the website.  I’m starting to get a little excited about this now.

2012-06-27 22.11.41Inside a FedEx overnight envelope was a thin brown box with the wise words of Yoda laser etched into the brown cardboard cover – “TRY NOT.  DO, OR DO NOT.  THERE IS NO TRY.”  I’ll be framing that for my office :)

Awesome!  Getting a little more excited.  The cover is held on with some weak double-sided tape to reveal the Bullduino that hides inside.

2012-06-27 22.10.58

How cool is that?  Immediately, I’m thinking “Battarang?”  Down boy…we only have six days left.  Hmmm…

The case is a four-layer (plus the top) laser cut corrugated cardboard sandwich that’s taped on the edges.  Nice and simple yet very elegant.

Taking out the board, reveals yet another surprise.  Underneath the PCB, on the bottom of the box, is laser etched “YOU’LL NEED THIS TOO:”.  Following the URL leads to a download for the Bullduino.inf driver file.

2012-06-27 22.09.07At this point, I just had to plug the board into a USB cable and install the driver.  Once it was plugged in, two green LEDs illuminated.  The top one started flashing a pattern that repeated after 10 seconds or so.  I realized this must be a Morse code message.

Despite over 15 years in Boy Scouting, I’ve never learned to read Morse code.  So, I made a video so I could slow it down.

Even by slowing the video down to 1/8th speed it proved to be a challenge for me.  After play/pause/rewind… for about 20 minutes, it then occurred to me that someone has probably already figured this out since I was so late to receive my board.  Sure enough…the folks over at the Harford Hackerspace already cracked the code and determined that it says “‘Wouldn’t lou prefer a good game of chess?”  They speculate that the “lou” may be a clue to something else hidden in the board.

2012-06-27 22.09.39Back to the board…well, actually the backside of the board.  The main processor is a ATMEGA3282012-06-27 22.10.20.  Of course, it has an Arduino pin form factor.  A few things immediately jumped out at me as unusual.  First are the three sets of pads in the middle of the board labeled “CONN5”, “CONN6”, and “CONN7”.  At first glance, I’m not sure what these are for.  They certainly aren’t standard on any Arduino I’ve seen.

Secondly, in the top left corner is a little yellow round part.  It is the reset button.  They definitely decided this would be a good place to save a few bucks.  It takes a little more effort to get a good press on it than it does a normal momentary switch used on most Arduino boards.

That’s all for now.  Now to figure out what to do with it!  Let the fun begin!


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